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We Can Do It

Cycling can at times be a mixed bag, in that the growth of the sport is often met with startling declines. Women’s Cycling, especially domestically, has taken some huge hits in recent years with a number of major team sponsors pulling out of the sport. Meredith Miller has seen and lived through both sides of the turnover spectrum.

In Part II of my conversation with the peloton’s newest leading lady, we find out what changes she would make to the sport of cycling, whether women’s cycling should take a tougher stance, and the plausibility of a women’s only cycling league.

Lenny B (LB): What, if anything, would you change about the structure of Women’s Cycling?

Meredith Miller (MM): The answer to this could be a book. There are so many different answers because there are so many areas in which women’s cycling can improve. Of course the first thing that comes to mind is equal pay between men and women. I realize that there isn’t the same number of women in the sport as there are men but where’s the incentive? The number of women at the grassroots level has been steadily increasing and now we have to give those women something worthwhile to keep them in the sport, to keep them aiming to reach the “professional” level. Receiving a small stipend and having expenses paid isn’t enough. Until women are paid a livable wage, the growth in the sport will never surpass current standards. Asking women to race full-time on a salary that can barely cover food expenses for a weekend on the road isn’t fair or respectable. Nor is it fair to expect to see the same number of female participants as their male counterparts when most women have to remain at home to work the part-time of full-time job they need to stay afloat.

Besides pay, I’d love to see more stage races for women. I could get myself in trouble here but it’s aggravating that when women raise their voice to ask that a women’s race be run concurrently with a men’s tour, promoters give us the obligatory criterium and we’re suppose to be happy with that. We want stage races, too. It’s a sticky situation because of course I’m happy that we have a race at all but it’s just not enough. I think most women would agree that a schedule full of criteriums isn’t all we want or all we deserve.

LB: Along those lines, sports like tennis finally came around on the issue of equal pay, but it took years of advocacy and diplomacy. From your experience, is the sport of women’s cycling closer or further away from that goal?

MM: I think we are a long way off from reaching the same status that women hold in tennis. Because tennis is a higher profile sport among sports enthusiasts around the world, it was probably easier (not saying it was easy but easier) for them to obtain equal pay. Cycling is still so low on the sports totem pole that many men don’t get paid a livable wage either so, I hate to say it, but I think it’s still a long way off before women get paid the same as men.

TIBCO's Meredith MillerLB: Do you think it’s time for women to take a tougher stance on this issue, along with others that afflict the sport?

MM: For sure it’s time that women take a tougher stand, but it can’t just be one person here and there. It has to come from the women’s peloton as a whole. It has to be a group initiative so that people take us seriously. The impact of what we are saying will be stronger and more valid if it comes from a unified voice.

LB: Do you think it’s possible for the sport of cycling to pull off a women’s only series or league, as they have with soccer, or do you feel the sport in the US still needs to be buttressed by coinciding men’s events?

MM: Unfortunately we are not at a point where cycling could have a women’s only league. It’s hard enough for us to keep races on the calendar, much less have a league all to ourselves. Frankly I don’t think there’s a need for a women’s only league.

There is, however, a women’s series called the Women’s Prestige Cycling Series. The series includes Redlands Bicycle Classic, Tour of the Gila, Nature Valley Grand Prix and the Cascade Cycling Classic and offers awards to the Best Overall Individual, Best Overall Team, Sprint Competition and Best Young Rider. It’s good for women’s cycling and I hope to see it continue.

Other than a series, the next best thing would be a women’s only tour like we had back in the day with the HP Classic.

Part I – Ready For Her Closeup | Part III – Mud Bug

To follow Meredith as she dances with mud, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Photos: Leonard Basobas/LB Photos